These observations — where I look at Real Madrid’s history, its players on loan, Castilla, tactical tidbits, and other relevant thoughts — are now a regular thing. All previous editions can be found here.
“There will be no more signings for now because we don’t have any more space right now,” Florentino Perez said in an interview with El Chiringuito late on Wednesday night. “It will depend of the departures. The summer is long and anything can happen.”
Real Madrid’s president always speaks candidly when he commits to these late-night, Spanish TV cameos — sometimes to his own detriment. During last year’s failed European Super League fiasco, Perez’s PR, along with his public defense, weren’t great. Tonight, he touched on the subject again without getting into elaborate explanations, stating: “Of course the Super League is still alive. No one left the Super League”. But while Perez glossed over his persistent, unshakeable dream, what struck with intrigue the most — even beyond his comments about Kylian Mbappe — was his transparency on the squad-building crossroads the team currently finds itself in.
Real Madrid have opened three roster spots with the departures of Gareth Bale, Isco, and Marcelo. Two new players — Antonio Rudiger, Aurelien Tchouameni — have arrived. Four players — Alvaro Odriozola, Borja Mayoral, Reinier Jesus, Takefusa Kubo — return from loan. At least two of them (Jesus, Kubo) will go back out. Victor Chust, technically registered as a Castilla loanee, will also have to be shuffled — among several other Castilla graduates.
Florentino made it clear: There is still potential to sign more players, but it will depend on more players leaving, and if new signings don’t materialize, that’s ok too. The team just won the double and added Rudiger and Tchouameni to the team. Florentino went out of his way to praise Rodrygo Goes, and then hyped up Eden Hazard.
“I think Vinicius will win the Ballon d’Or one day, maybe Rodrygo too, Mbappé? I don’t know, I talk about my players,” Perez said. “Rodrygo will blow people’s minds. Benzema is winning this Ballon d’Or.
“Hazard had bad luck, as soon as he came, a national teammate injured him. Now he has a lot of hope.”
Real Madrid are prepared to put more weights on Hazard’s shoulders if need be, and will lean on Rodrygo to take a leap. That’s not a terrible place to be, and if Marco Asensio is sold this summer, don’t be surprised if another winger isn’t brought on. I have long been vocal about this: Signing Kylian Mbappe is one thing, but there are few players (probably two) available on the open market that would justify splashing big money on in order to take away playing time from Rodrygo.
“We will have to ask José Ángel Sanchez, the sports director,” Perez said of the future of Asensio, who is now a client of super-agent Jorge Mendes. “We have many good players and they all want to play.”
(On a side note, Asensio has recently been linked with AC Milan — a club I’d be interested to see him at, as he could play in three positions in Stefano Pioli’s scheme, including the #10 role which the Spaniard could thrive in.)
If Asensio does leave, it begs the question: Is relying on Rodrygo and Hazard enough?
If Hazard regains form (and my hunch, based on reality: ‘form’ means achieving 80% of his former level, which is still a solid player), he doesn’t address the gap on right wing. That can be mitigated if Rodrygo takes the next step. While it’s true the Brazilian’s best position is on the left, he’ll likely be given the keys to the right wing, and, why not? He’s damn good at it.
The depth would wither, but it may be too soon to overanalyze now. There’s still time to sign, promote, or recall. Fede Valverde can provide value on the right, though, he himself clicks into gear at full potential as a central midfielder.
If Hazard starts some games, he’s best suited as an understudy to Vinicius on the left-wing, or as a back-up to Benzema as a false-9. He may not break lines like Vinicius nor score goals like Benzema, but as insurance, he’s good luxury to have in the depth chart if he really is to regain some of his old-self now that he’s removed the plate in his ankle.
But what Perez alluded to tonight simplifies a truth: There is no real urgency to revolutionize the squad right now. Real Madrid, in this era, are a team that pounces on market opportunities. There already exists a solid foundation the team can build around, and next summer there may be better signings (cheaper, better fit) than the names that exist now. Biting the bullet of pragmatism sometimes works in your favour long term.
Leaning on fresh options next summer is justifiable. Look out for one name that might emerge in 12 months: Brahim Diaz. Diaz had a poor season, and clearly wasn’t the same since returning from COVID-19. But maybe he needs an off-season to recalibrate. He is young, versatile, hard-working, brilliant between the lines, and a line-breaker. Can he impress at Milan again? Will Sergio Arribas take a leap? Will Rodrygo be too good to displace? Will there be new names that aren’t on the radar?
One interesting quote, among many, from Wednesday night’s interview, was the explanation for not signing Erling Haaland.
“We have the best striker in the world,” the Real Madrid president explained. “We can’t bring Haaland, an amazing player, and bench him.”
Some might see that as an opportunistic way to explain missing out on the Norwegian. While I think there is merit in that, I’d also wager that had Real Madrid not had Karim Benzema, and furthermore, had Haaland still have been available after Mbappe made his decision, Real would’ve put all their chips towards the Norwegian. But for now, they opted for the safer route: Leaning on Benzema who will likely outlast the sun.
On Wednesday night’s Managing Madrid Podcast, Matt Wiltse and I both agreed that Borja Mayoral could be an option as the back-up striker in the meantime. Mayoral can have limited touches but still be sharp in front of goal, as illustrated in his half-season at Getafe.
Whoever that back-up striker is, they could see around 1500 minutes next season. Mariano and Luka Jovic combined for around 1000 in 2021 - 2022; and Benzema will likely have to sit more next season, naturally because he’ll be one year older and playing in a World Cup; while Carlo Ancelotti’s men also have to play the gruelling Club World Cup.
One thing is for certain: While Real Madrid can upgrade certain positions in the squad, adding two great players to a Champions League Champion is a pretty great place to be.